Voices’ Blog

Children’s Mental Health in the Senate and House Budget Recommendations

Posted:  -  By: Ashley Airington

On Sunday, Feb. 18, the Senate and House money committees released their budgets. Some key differences in the House and Senate budget proposals are described below.

Alternative Transportation

We are thrilled the Senate included a total of $7 million over the biennium to implement an alternative transportation system for children and adults under a temporary detention order. Specifically, $2.5 million GF  will be allocated to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) in FY19 and $4.5 million GF in FY20. This amendment would implement a regionally based transportation service within each of the five primary DBHDS regions with state oversight and certification of providers. DBHDS will structure the contract to phase in the program over a three-year period, such that in year three the contract will result in the provision of services statewide. Unfortunately, the House did not include funding to implement a statewide alternative transportation system in Virginia.

We see the Senate’s budget amendment as a huge win for children, one that takes a big step in transforming this part of our behavioral health system. We will advocate for the conference committee to adopt the Senate’s proposal of $7 million. Read our blog to learn more about the importance of alternative transportation for children in crisis.

STEP-Virginia: Same-Day Access and Primary Care Screening and Monitoring 

We are pleased the House and Senate retained the governor’s proposed funding ($5.9 million GF/year) to implement same-day-access services at the 22 community services boards not currently offering that option, ensuring all 40 CSBs will be able offer a same-day assessment and initial treatment within 10 days. Last year, the General Assembly provided $4.9 million GF to fund same-day access (SDA) at the first 18 CSBs spread out across Virginia. Learn more here.

Same-day access is the first step in implementing a comprehensive state system that is consistent, readily accessible, and able to provide a comprehensive array of community treatment options. With same-day access, children and adults will be able to walk into any CSB, receive an assessment that day, and begin initial treatment within 10 days.

The governor also included funding to provid primary care screening and monitoring at all 40 CSBs. While the House retained the governor’s proposed funding for this service, the Senate delayed implementation of primary screening to begin in FY 2020.  Primary care screening and monitoring for individuals seeking services from CSBs will increase the likelihood of those at risk of physical health issues getting preventative and primary care.

Behavioral Health Transformation

The Senate included a budget amendment allocating $150,000 from GF and $150,000 from federal funds in 2019 to contract with Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Colorado School of Medicine to develop a strategic plan to transform FAMIS and Medicaid behavioral health services. This funding will support research of the evidence-based and trauma-informed practices for behavioral health services and will include focus groups with stakeholders, culminating in the development of a strategic plan.

Read more about trauma-informed care budget proposals on our trauma-informed care blog.

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